Latenight Theatre returned last night with their Fall Anthology performance. We sent a new Staff Writer to see his first Latenite at Columbia and review the show. Shows will also be held tonight at 11 PM and Saturday night at 8PM and 11PM. Tickets are free and available through TIC.
Despite being warned numerous times beforehand about the ‘weirdness’ of Latenite Theatre, I still feel that I was somewhat unprepared in attending my first Latenite performance in the 5th floor Lerner Black Box Theater. No one I asked seemed to be able to describe exactly what Latenite ‘is’ in terms of what to expect, and after sitting through the performance, I understand the difficulty of describing Latenite to the uninitiated. The bottom line of Latenite is that even though it’s weird in the extreme, the performances in this year’s fall anthology were satisfyingly entertaining, riotously funny, and wonderful in a truly absurd way.
This year’s anthology presented a fairly diverse set of seven plays, ranging from the incredibly short faux-pornscene in “Pizza Delivery” to the much longer “Little Tree,” which follows a tree’s journey in following her dream to ‘get swole’ and become the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. The variety of plays and styles was greatly appreciated, since it gave a solid pace to the entire show; while every play was engaging in its own right, the inclusion of such a variety of material means that Latenite truly has something for everyone.
The second play in the show, “Gary Poppin,” was an impressive performance and quite possibly my favorite. The play is styled as a parody of the story “Mary Poppins,” where in this version, Michael and Jane (played by Shreyas Manohar and Eliana Pipes respectively) hire a nanny off of Craigslist. Gary Poppin, the eponymous nanny played by Lara Karaaslan, turns out to be very invested in his “medicine” for his glaucoma in addition to his penchant for unspecified hallucinogens and other substances, and he ends up taking the children on a very trippy journey with the help of some pills, powder, and a spoonful of “sugar.” Antics ensue when Bert arrives with a delivery of more drugs, and Gary ends up assaulting Bert and enlisting the help of the children in hiding the body. Needless to say, Latenite is clearly warning us about the dangers of Craigslist.
It’s rare that an audience can laugh all the way through a two-minute long silence in a play, but Latenite managed to elicit such a response with “how to business,” directed by Alexandra Warrick and Nathaniel Jameson. A clear standout among the other plays, “how to business” is narrated by a mechanical voice that directs a depressed and dissatisfied Businessman #1 (played by Mark Lerner) through the steps of, well, how to ‘business’ with Businessman #2 (played by Ian Hewitt). I refuse to completely ruin the twist of the play, but according to Latenite, ‘business’ apparently requires a dildo, a Fleshlight, and lots of rolling around on the floor in suits. The fact that the whole play is narrated by a monotonous voice that assumes a quality of “self-help book” condescension and is accompanied by a backdrop of “aesthetic” images only adds to the strange brilliance of the play.
It does seem that Latenite chose to follow the precedent set by its spring 2015 anthology in keeping Columbia-related content in the show to a minimum. The only explicit nod to Columbia tropes was in the penultimate play in the show, “Christina and Henry,” which opens to a freshmen, Henry (Matt Malone), sitting down with his RA, Christina (Isabel Bailin), for a one-on-one meeting during NSOP. After listening to Henry poke fun at Bwog (our collective pants are definitely not too tight) and lament his freshmen struggles, Christina slowly comes to the realization that she interacted with Henry at a frat party the previous night. Sexual tensions escalate, freshman awkwardness ensues, and the play ends on a climactic end, at least for Henry.
Performances of Latenite’s fall 2015 anthology run through Saturday afternoon/evening, and it’s my recommendation that everyone make an honest attempt at getting on the waitlist for tickets. Latenite’s clear strength is that it unabashedly accepts its own weirdness and utilizes it to connect with it audience, and as such, Latenite excels spectacularly at entertaining. There were times in the show that I was close to tears from laughing and times I was confused about why I was laughing in the first place, but there was no single moment where I found myself not enjoying the performance. Personally, I’m already looking forward to the spring anthology.
Photo courtesy of the event’s Facebook page